How To Help Your Kids Develop A Faith That Lasts

Right at the end of the book of Matthew, Jesus commands his disciples to "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."

"DSC_8457" by Cassidy Lancaster / CC BY 2.0
Some of us make disciples by sharing the gospel with people who don't yet know Jesus, but nearly all of us are given disciples - children - for whom we as parents have the responsibility of teaching to follow the commands of Jesus.

But doing this well is tricky. I want to admit right at the top of this article that I don't have all the answers, in fact I don't even have very many of them. But as a father of young children, my greatest responsibility is not my ministry work in my church and here online, but is instead to help my children to become faithful disciples of Jesus who have a vibrant, steady faith of their own.

One of the great problems besetting the church is the exodus of young people at university age who discover other worldviews, often for the very first time, and begin to wonder whether or not Christianity is true. This wondering is not a bad thing, in fact I think it is a foundational part of the Christian life - all of us are sifted, all of us are tested to see if we stand firm on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.

However, young people must be prepared for this testing, which can be an overwhelming experience even for those young people who truly want to follow Jesus. We need to prepare our young people to be inundated with messages about religion and truth from our culture that run contrary to the claims of Christianity. Our kids need to enter this battle with real weapons, not rubber swords and plastic guns, because their opponent is fully armed. They need to be firmly anchored, because the sea is rough. 

Simplistic answers, or even worse NO answers won't get the job done. As the maxim goes, if we fail to prepare our kids, we will prepare them to fail. So we must ensure they are ready to defend their faith against the objections they will hear from their friends, peers or professors, and this starts when they are small children. 

So how do we go about this? I'd like to suggest some ideas and in particular some resources that I find particularly helpful as a Christian parent who wants to prepare my children well for a lifetime of following Jesus.

1. Get Your Hands Dirty

Every child who has at least one caring Christian parent already has everything they need to continue on in their faith - provided that the parent is active in talking about and living out their faith. This is not an assertion of mine, it is the finding of sociological research done by the National Study of Youth and Religion. Lead researcher Christian Smith, from the University of Notre Dame, labelled the link between parents who practice what they preach, value their faith highly and speak about it regularly in the home, and young adults who are active participants in their religion, as "nearly deterministic".

You are the primary factor in your kids continuing on in the faith. If Christianity is a cultural habit you do on a Sunday morning, your kids are probably going to find something else to do on that day when they are old enough to choose for themselves. But if you are an active disciple, following Jesus with all of your life, and you do the normal relational things kids need like spending time with them, the chances are your kids will follow after your example. Get your hands dirty for the Kingdom of God, but also get your hands dirty in the lives of your children. Your children need you to!

2. Encourage Questions and Discussion

The next thing that I highly recommend, although I find this personally the most difficult part of our family routine to do well, is to foster questions and discussion about our beliefs. One of the most vital parts of developing a strong faith in our children is to let them ask questions. As a primary school teacher, I value interest-based learning, because I find that when kids (and also adults!) are investigating a question that has personal significance, they are more likely to value and internalise the answer they receive. This also rings true for teaching our kids about the Christian faith. If we want our kids to know what they believe and why they believe it, we have to get them thinking about it enough to ask questions.

Asking questions and opening our beliefs to critical evaluation also sends our children an important message:That Christianity is strong enough to withstand questioning. For Christianity to be worth our time, it has to be true, and if it's true, it should be able to stand up to scrutiny. The fact that the Christian worldview has withstood the fiercest criticism at the highest academic level and remained an intellectually viable option for thinking people to believe on the basis of the evidence is powerful, and differentiates it from other worldviews that discourage questioning (such as Islam). If you want your kids to have a faith that can endure trying times, don't shy away from running the rule over Christianity with them. 

3. Be Informed

However, to be able to guide your children through questions about faith and truth, you have to have some answers to their questions! And if you don't have the answers, you at least need to have some resources available to help you find the answers. When our kids have a pressing concern about their own faith, they're probably going to ask us about it, and if we don't or can't answer their question, it can begin to give them the false impression that Christianity doesn't check out in reality, when in fact the opposite is true. You are the resource your child needs when they have a question about the Christian faith.

Intimidated? Don't be, One of the insights you get as a primary school teacher is that you only need to be one step ahead of your students in any domain of knowledge in order to teach them well. And the more you teach them, the more your own knowledge will grow - in my early lessons as a new teacher I probably learned more than the students did about the content of the curriculum! Rather than seeing this as an impossibly enormous tasks, begin by taking one step at a time, and you will develop the capacity to be the kind of guide your child needs.

One particularly good resource for finding the answers to questions is the website gotquestions? which is a searchable database with hundreds of thousands of answers to questions about Christianity and the Bible. I would also recommend for parents (or just Christians in general) to read Lee Strobel's books "The Case for Christ", "The Case for Faith" and "The Case for a Creator", which are entry-level, easy to read books looking at some of the evidence that points towards Christianity being true from scholars who work in the relevant historical, philosophical or scientific fields.

4. Kids Bible App

This one should be fairly obvious, but one of the challenges I've had as a parent is finding a way of sharing the scriptures with my children (aged 3 and 5) in a way that is engaging and suitable for their age group. Both of my children love using the bible app, which is available both on Android and for Apple devices. Full of animated, interactive stories from Genesis 1 right through to the end of the New Testament, the App also has quiz questions, achievement stars and collectable items that add some gamification to the experience. 

The app is regularly updated with extra animations and features, and new stories are added from time to time. The stories are narrated and you can prompt the app to read the quiz questions aloud, which is helpful for children who are not yet able to read. While it's perfect for younger children, it's also interesting enough for older children to use independently. There are a lot of laugh out loud animations that we have enjoyed sharing together as a family.

You can get the download links from the website here: The Bible App for Kids. And the best news is, it's completely free, although I would happily pay money for it.

5. Buy Good Books

Kids love to read books, and books that teach them about their faith are particularly important. I have recently bought several books for my kids that I recommend for all Christian parents:

Firstly there is the What is God Like? series of picture books for young children about the attributes of God which have titles like "God is Spirit" and "God is Three Persons". They are written by world-class Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig and have been appealingly illustrated. There are 10 books in total, and you can get these individually on Amazon, but I bought them as an entire set from the Biola University Apologetics online store.

Secondly I bought a series of three picture books by Melissa Cain Travis entitled "How Do We Know God is Really There?", "How Do We Know God Created Life?" and her newest release "How Do We Know Jesus is Alive?". These have excellent pictures and are good discussion starters as well, which I highly recommend for parents of 5-10 year olds.

For the older child who likes to nut out puzzles and problems themselves, I recommend Resurrection iWitness, by Doug Powell. It has bits to open and close and you kind of investigate or navigate as much as you read, with the focus being the "minimal facts" about the resurrection of Jesus that virtually all scholars (Christian, atheist, Jewish) agree on. I haven't read this with my kids, because it's over their heads right now, but I have it put away for the appropriate time.

6. Read This Blog

The last tip I can give you is to become a regular reader of Natasha Crain's blog Christian Mom Thoughts. I'm sure I'm not the only Christian Dad lurking on her website! Natasha has literally written the book on Christian parenting: Keeping Your Kids on God's Side. While I haven't read the book yet, it's been developed from some of the material on her blog which I have read and which is excellent. She gives ideas for starting discussions with children, has a recommended reading list I am working my way through and also highlights issues Christians need to learn about to be successful Christian ambassadors and evangelists - there's so much more than just parenting on offer at her blog. In fact stop reading this blog and start reading hers!
How To Help Your Kids Develop A Faith That Lasts How To Help Your Kids Develop A Faith That Lasts Reviewed by Nathan on 6:44 PM Rating: 5

No comments:

Leave a comment below:

Powered by Blogger.